Fifth-grader wins Seymour DARE essay contest


If a group of people was smoking and someone asked Lucero Martinez Mendez to join them, she said she would say “no” because she doesn’t want to have problems or body issues.

She would use the Drug Abuse Resistance Education decision-making model to control the risky situation.

“Smoking can make your breath stink, and you can have yellow teeth,” she said.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

If she had to choose between going to see a movie with her friends or going to her sister’s birthday party, she said she would go to the party because she could be with her friends another time.

Again, she would use the decision-making model.

“I made a right choice,” she said.

Those are among the lessons the St. Ambrose Catholic School fifth-grader learned from Seymour DARE Officer Gilbert Carpenter.

She included those thoughts in an essay, which she and nearly 475 other fifth-graders at Seymour schools had to write in the fall.

Her teacher, Kim Stewart, and Carpenter chose her as the class winner, and then a panel of people who read the 17 class winners’ essays chose an overall winner.

Lucero again claimed top honors, marking the third year in a row a St. Ambrose student was chosen.

“I feel surprised. I feel special,” she said with a big smile after the recent DARE graduation at the school.

In front of the whole school, she and her 11 classmates were presented certificates and bumper stickers for completing the DARE program.

Carpenter then held up Daren, a stuffed lion that serves as the program’s mascot. He said he takes it to every DARE meeting, and at the end of the program, the essay contest winner gets to keep it.

He announced Lucero was the recipient, and she received a pendant, a medal, a gift bag and a framed copy of her essay before reading the essay to students, teachers and parents.

“I was kind of nervous,” Lucero said of speaking in front of the school.

In her essay, Lucero shared statistics about the number of alcohol-related deaths (88,000) and people addicted to alcohol (17.6 million) in the United States.

She also included drug facts, signs of stress, resistance strategies and how to communicate effectively.

“Whenever someone is stressed, they may count, take deep breaths or maybe have sweaty hands,” she wrote. “I also learned how to communicate effectively. We should communicate by making eye contact and being confident with our voice and sure in what you say. There are resistance strategies. They are say ‘no’ and walk away.”

Lucero said she will keep all of the information in mind for the rest of her life.

“I have learned so much in the DARE program this year,” she wrote. “I have also enjoyed DARE. I promise that I am going to be a drug-free person and hope to be a DARE role model. I will use my knowledge to be a good person.”

Lucero’s mother, Luz Mendez, was proud of her daughter for winning the contest and completing DARE.

“I’m very excited and very happy with my daughter,” Luz said. “She is a very good person, and she’s all of the time helping other people. She works hard. I’m so happy.”

The DARE program ran from August to mid-December and involved all five Seymour Community Schools elementaries, two classes at Immanuel Lutheran School and one at St. Ambrose. Each session lasted an hour once a week.

Carpenter taught 14 of the classes, while DARE Officer Tim Toborg taught the other three. The curriculum addresses drugs, violence, bullying, internet safety and other high-risk circumstances that youth may encounter.

Lucero said the highlights of DARE were trying to walk while wearing impaired-vision goggles, playing dodgeball with the high school junior and senior DARE role models and asking them questions and playing a DARE review game with her classmates.

When it comes time to write essays, Carpenter said he tells the fifth-graders to start off with a great first sentence that will draw the reader in. Then in the body of the essay, they can share facts, statistics, lessons they learned and their favorite aspects of DARE.

All of the students have to read their essay in front of their class. The DARE officer and teacher pick a winner from each class, and those 17 essays move on to members of a panel, who read them individually and pick the top three.

“Everybody kept throwing her paper out, like, ‘Hey, this is the top paper. You would probably put her as first,’” Carpenter said of Lucero’s essay.

Because of DARE, Lucero said she will continue to help and protect people, and she hopes to be selected as a DARE role model in high school.

“Because then I can help all of the little kids to teach them not to bully or to drink alcohol or smoke,” she said.

After high school, she said she wants to be a doctor, which will be another way to help people.

As Lucero held Daren and her framed certificate in her hands, Carpenter congratulated her on the accomplishment.

“Take care of Daren for me, OK, because he’s all yours,” he told her. “This is a big-time gift to get the honor to have Daren.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Seymour Drug Abuse Resistance Education essay contest winners” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

First place: Lucero Martinez Mendez, fifth-grader at St. Ambrose Catholic School

Did you know there are about 88,000 deaths each year in the United States from alcohol-related incidents? In the DARE program, I learned the signs of stress and resistance strategies. I have also learned to communicate effectively. I will use all of this information for later in life.

I have learned the signs of stress in DARE. Whenever someone is stressed, they may count, take deep breaths or maybe have sweaty hands. I also learned how to communicate effectively. We should communicate by making eye contact and being confident with our voice and sure in what you say. There are resistance strategies. They are say “no” and walk away.

Some drug facts are drugs can cause lots of deaths. You can have body issues, memory loss and slow reflexes. Mixing medicine and alcohol is very dangerous. Lots of people in the United States are addicted to alcohol. About 17.6 million people are addicted to alcohol.

I am using my decision-making model by controlling risky situations. For example, if there was a group smoking and they asked me if I wanted to smoke with them, I would say “no” because I don’t want to have problems or body issues. I would also use my decision-making model to make good choices. For example, if I had to choose to go see a movie with my friends or go to my sister’s birthday party, the right choice is to go to my sister’s birthday party because you tell your friends you can go another time to the movies. I made a right choice.

I have learned so much in the DARE program this year. I have also enjoyed DARE. I promise that I am going to be a drug-free person and hope to be a DARE role model. I will use my knowledge to be a good person.

Second place: Emma Woodard, fifth-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School

What is the meaning of DARE? How do we use the DARE decision-making model? Why do we use DARE? In fifth grade, we do DARE. It is so much fun. I love it in DARE. Officer Carpenter comes every Tuesday and teaches us about DARE. DARE is about resisting drugs and helping others resist drugs, too. DARE taught me so much.

I learned many things in DARE. I learned that there are more than 75,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States. Some health effects are loss of eye coordination, poor judgment, memory loss and slow reflexes. Some facts about tobacco are that in the United States, it is illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 18 — 19 in some states. There are more than 200 harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke that is known. Cigarettes also can cause lung cancer. There are more than 400,000 people that die every year. When I am feeling stressed, I might feel embarrassed, sad, anxious or humiliated or I might feel like crying or I might breathe hard. I might feel like taking my anger out on my friends. Some ways to relieve stress are take deep breaths or just walk away from the whole situation.

The DARE decision-making model can help anyone. Once, I had to choose whether to play travel softball or volleyball. In assessing the problem, I realized that volleyball was going to take up less time than softball. Volleyball is also a school sport, where softball wasn’t. I had to make a choice, which is called responding. I chose to play volleyball. I think I made the right choice because I’m better at volleyball, and I had so much fun playing with my friends.

The things I’ve learned about alcohol will help me as I get older. There will be times when I might get pressured by someone I know, am close to or even a stranger. They might make me do something I don’t want to do or something that is bad for me. The things I have learned during DARE will help me throughout my life. I want to thank Officer Carpenter for being my DARE role model. I will always carry my DARE lessons with me throughout my life. I won’t drink under the age of 18 because I know it is illegal. I won’t harm anyone. These things I promise, and these things I will keep.

Third place: Claire Sanders, fifth-grader at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School

This year in DARE, I have learned a lot. Before this year, I knew that in DARE, a policeman would come in and teach you about drugs, but turns out, DARE is a lot more than that.

In DARE, I received the privilege of learning about what to do in hard or dangerous situations, how to calm yourself down and what drugs can do to you.

One thing that really stood out to me and that I can remember in the future is the DARE decision-making model. The DARE decision-making model is this: Define, assess, respond and evaluate. The DARE decision-making model tells you exactly what to do in a hard situation.

I think that because of how much I have liked DARE that others would feel the same way. I really can’t imagine someone not liking DARE, but of course, that is just my opinion. I know that every Thursday, most kids would be counting down the minutes until Officer Carpenter came in to talk to us about our topic. Almost every kid would say, “When is Officer Carpenter coming in?” because they were so excited for him to come in.

If someone asked me what DARE is, I would say it’s an amazing experience where you can learn about amazing things that include drugs, stress, bullying, friendships and much more.

In the future, I plan to use what I’ve learned in DARE and become a DARE role model. One of the lessons that we had was when the DARE role models from the high school came in and we got to ask them questions. Someday, I want to be up there answering those questions.

The lesson I remember most was about stress. We learned about how to deal with stress. I learned that I can tell myself positive things, lay my head down and pause and count to five. DARE this year has been an amazing experience, and I hope others will and do feel the same way.


No posts to display